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Parental Responsibility Guide

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility is defined in law by the Children Act 1989 as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. 

People with parental responsibility are entitled to have a say in major decisions about a child such as:

  • Where a child should live
  • What name the child should have
  • Where they should go to school
  • The giving or withholding of medical treatment.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility. You will have parental responsibility if one of the following scenarios applies:

  • A father who is married to, or the civil partner of the child’s mother when the child is born
  • A father who is named on the birth certificate of a child born after 1 December 2003
  • If you have a Child Arrangements Order – live within your favour
  • If you have an adoption order in your favour
  • If you are appointed as child’s guardian

Separated parents can both still have parental responsibility even though they are no longer together. If you have parental responsibility, it might not mean you automatically have the right to spend time with your children.

Both parents should be involved and agree on important decisions about the child’s life. If there are any disputes, you can apply for a Specific Issue Order.

How can you obtain Parental Responsibility?

If you do not have Parental Responsibility, there are several ways that you can obtain it. These include:

  • Seeking the mother’s agreement to re-register as the child’s father on the birth certificate;
  • Seeking the mother’s agreement to enter into a mutual Parental Responsibility agreement;
  • Being appointed as the child’s guardian;
  • Obtaining a Child Arrangements Order – live with;
  • Adopting a child;
  • Stepparents and the civil partners of parents can obtain Parental Responsibility if both parents with parental responsibility agree, or by a court order.

What if I cannot reach an agreement?

If an agreement is not possible you can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order. when considering whether to make the order the court will consider the father's commitment and attachment to the child and whether the reasons for applying are genuine.

Generally, the court will make a parental responsibility order unless the father poses a risk to the child or the mother.

Do Unmarried Fathers Have Parental Responsibility?

How can our Family Solicitors help you?

Our team of experienced family solicitors can provide legal advice throughout the process. We can tell you which steps to take and what the likelihood of your case succeeding is. We can also explain your rights and support your case from start to finish.

If you would like to find out how we can help, please call us on 0161 941 4000, or contact us online.

Meet Our Specialists

Home-grown or recruited from national, regional or City firms. Our specialists are experts in their fields and respected by their peers.

Jane Tenquist

Jane Tenquist

Jane is a Partner and Head of the Family Law Team

Nichola Bright

Nichola Bright

Nichola is a Senior Associate in our Family Law department

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah is a Senior Associate in our Family Law department

Gabrielle Dugan

Gabrielle Dugan

Gabrielle is an Associate within the Family Department

Helen Royle

Helen Royle

Helen is a Trainee Solicitor in our Family department.


Contact Us

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0161 941 4000